Researched Writing Projects 

Phase One: Find a Problem/Need/Opportunity
Phase one calls for individual work to develop topic statements for potential projects.  The group will then select from among these topic statements to determine which project to pursue.

Elements of a topic statement:

  1. state a potential problem your group could address,
  2. describe what organization your group is or represents or could represent,
  3. identify the decision-making readers your group could attempt to persuade, and
  4. demonstrate the timeliness of the topic and available information by giving the citation for one current (1998-2000) print article and summarizing that article.
To begin generating viable topics, you might look at three (perhaps overlapping) areas: Once you have these inventories in mind, use GRACE, especially questions about goals and readers to identify topics to pursue.  You're looking for an idea that is interesting enough to keep you energized and working hard on this project, challenging enough to make the project substantial, and yet limited enough to complete in the time you have available this semester.

Try the following checklist:

Phase Two: Write a Proposal

Goals for the proposal

  1. Convince readers that your project is worthwhile.
  2. Convince readers that you will complete the project successfully.
  3. Clarify your goals and your plans for the project itself.  Identify the different aspects of the project and divide up the work so that you're ready to move forward.
  4. Make some progress on the project itself.  You should have at least a tentative plan for the structure of the document you will produce at the end of the project, and you should develop a preliminary GRACE analysis of the project.  Some of the key data you'll ultimately use in the final document should probably be in your proposal.

The primary reader for your proposal is me.  This is different from the final project document you will produce, where the primary readers will be the people you want to persuade or inform concerning the project.

Secondary readers for the proposal might be people you are interviewing for the project.  For example, some of the language in the proposal might help explain to them what you are up to and why you need their help.  There may be other secondary readers as well.

Arguments: Significance, Resources, Benefits/Risks, Outcomes


The proposal should be 2-3 pp. long, in memo format.  Use headings and other document design features to organize the information.  Samples in The Writing of Business, Chapter 12, will give you some ideas on format.  No matter how you organize the memo, include a detailed schedule for the project.  Finally, of course, you want to make sure your proposal is mechanically clean and correct.  With proposals as with other kinds of business writing, breaking conventions of grammar, spelling, and usage can damage your chances of a favorable reading.


Your most important goals are to persuade me that 1. you have a good project and 2. you'll be able to complete it successfully and on time.  The expression of the proposal should support these goals, so you should sound clear and confident.   However, don't gloss over potential problems and difficulties.  On the contrary, a thoughtful and forthright analysis of potential problems or barriers may increase my confidence in your ability to grasp a complex situation realistically.

Phase Three: Research and Develop Your Project Document


Based on your proposal and your discussion with me, proceed to implement your project plan, according to GRACE:

Goals.  The project document should provide the primary/decision-making readers with all necessary information.  After reading the document, the primary readers should understand what you want them to understand and should be in a position to take the action you want them to take.

Readers.  The final project document should fulfill the primary readers' needs and expectations: what are these in your case?  It should take the needs of secondary readers into account (again, what are these?) and demonstrate an awareness of how those readers will gain access to the information in the document.

Arguments.  The project document should support all claims (suggestions, plans, recommendations, etc.)  with specific data and provide warrants that link the data to the claims. Documentation--sources of information, principles of interpretation, methods of analysis, and justification and rationale for methods–should establish credibility.
Conventions.   The final project document should include:

See Chapter 13 and example on 580-84.

The report writers need to make appropriate decisions regarding document design, including page layout, readability of headings, fonts, how and where to integrate graphics, etc.

Expression.  The style should be clear and direct.  It should use any specialized or technical language appropriate for its target readers but should define any such language if the readers will not understand it.  The document should follow conventions of correct grammar, spelling, and usage.  It should be edited and proofread carefully.


As part of the group project, you will give a 15 minute presentation to the class based on your group project and the advice in Chapter 14.

Assumptions about your role as presenters.  Your presentation to the class should show that you have analyzed the problem well, have set reasonable goals for your project, have considered the needs of all those affected if your arguments prevail, and have designed a well-argued solution. Teams might organize themselves into these roles:

General Advice.   While Chapter 14 will offer more information, here are some general reminders:


Use the following guidelines for (1) organizing and structuring yourselves and (2) enhancing communication and accountability among yourselves.

A Note On Minutes

I won't require that you keep minutes of your group meetings, but I recommend it. Think of the minutes as a project management tool for you--which they are. The primary audience for the minutes is yourselves. Communication can break down in groups. People don't hear agendas the same way, they don't understand assignments the same way, or they forget assignments and deadlines, or they duplicate assignments, or. . . . you name it. Keeping regular minutes helps avoid significant communication or project-management problems. For an overview of what needs to be in a good set of minutes and for a typical pattern of organization, see Chapter 3.

Shared Responsibility, Shared Rewards

The project grade will be based on the quality of the written project and also on the quality of the documentation of the work on the project--topic memos, proposal, in-class progress report, draft, etc. All the members of a group will share the reward (i.e., the grade), just as happens in the professional world. However, as also usually happens in the professional world, you will have an opportunity to comment individually to me on the quality of the process after the project is completed and to acknowledge the work of anyone whose contributions to the project's success have been particularly notable.

Blowup: Thinking About The Unthinkable

You, as a group, are responsible for managing the work of your group. Sometimes, for whatever reasons, people just don't get the job done, and they let their group down. If somebody is freeloading, there needs to be an escape mechanism whereby the group can do damage control by cutting dead weight free. The following guidelines are designed with two purposes in mind: first, to limit the power of one person to affect the grade of the group, and, second, to limit the power of the group to affect the grade of one person.

You can be fired by your group under the following conditions:

1. More than once, you either don't show up for a group meeting in or out of class, OR you don't produce something you promised the group by the time you promised it.


2. You don't notify the group of a reasonable excuse (illness or emergency) for not doing whatever you didn't do. (Your group defines "reasonable," using the description in the syllabus as a guideline.)

Consequences of Being Fired

If your group fires you, you have to produce a final project on your own, with the understanding that there will be a 10-point penalty to the grade, since you'll be missing part of the point of the project.



In a single folder clearly marked with all your names, submit your final document and all your work toward it:


Evaluative Criteria for the Proposal

Evaluative Criteria for the Progress Report Evaluative Criteria for the Oral Presentation Evaluative Criteria for the Final project